Face to Face: Ryan Jones at Mirka UK

Face to Face: Ryan Jones at Mirka UK

Drawing on its long-standing heritage, Mirka is a family-owned Finnish company that develops and produces a range of abrasives, tools and polishing compounds for use in numerous industries including automotive, marine and, of course, the construction, renovation and interior finishing sectors.

Working with merchant partners, the business supplies high-quality, dust-free sanding concepts as well as traditional abrasives to professionals to ensure they can deliver an excellent finish whilst also making the job easier and safer.

Here, PBM speaks with Ryan Jones, Business Development Manager — Construction and Decoration, at Mirka UK.

Q: How did you get into the industry and to your current position?

A: I have been in the hardware and construction industry for around 10 years, starting out by working at my local hardware distributor. I then joined a coatings manufacturer before moving to Mirka in 2022 — it’s a brilliant company to work for with innovation at the forefront of everything it does, and the team I work with are great at solving problems and providing solutions that benefit the industry.

In my current role, I have seen first-hand the business’ ethos towards creation rather than releasing new products “just for the sake of it,” which enables it to solve genuine problems that other manufacturers haven’t addressed — or in some cases, even identified just yet. It is a joy to be part of this process.

Q: How do you feel the industry has changed in recent years?

A: Over the last few years, the industry has become more cost-conscious and in some ways the meaning of loyalty is being interpreted differently. Gone are the days of customers only shopping at their local merchants because we’re now in a position where, depending on the company size, workload and other factors, price may be an overriding consideration.

There is one thing that has stayed the same and that is service. If you’re delivering when you say you will with exactly what’s needed, you will keep and expand your customer base.

Q: And what do you see as important issues for the merchant sector in particular?

A: Competition and staying relevant with new products. With the merchanting sector encouraging different mindsets and new individuals into the industry, it’s pivotal that they pay attention to health concerns that are important — but not yet addressed as urgent.

An example of this is dust extraction, which has come a long way in the last few years and it’s beginning to become a priority for businesses, whether they are a one-man band or employ hundreds of people.

“There is one thing that has stayed the same and that is service. If you’re delivering when you say you will with exactly what’s needed, you will keep and expand your customer base.”

Q: How important is the issue of sustainability becoming to the merchant sector?

A: Sustainability is critical in the merchanting sector. The industry has had a bad reputation for damaging the environment in terms of single use products, products that require specialist disposal and aren’t treated correctly and a lack of options when it comes to sustainability.

We’re on the right track with companies paying attention to disposable caulk cartridges and solving this with reusable solutions and I’m excited to see what happens in the future.

Q: What are the current challenges facing your company?

A: The main challenge we are facing is uncertainty. This is because there is a good percentage of companies that we work with that are uncertain as to demand when it comes to work. This is highlighted by it being up some months, down others — and the pattern changes fairly frequently making it challenging to forecast.

As a business, we are in a stronger position compared with other times this year but there is still a level of doubt out there in the industry.

Q: And what has been your own biggest challenge so far?

A: My biggest challenge, which is ongoing, has been ensuring merchants have all undergone the necessary training because it is important that staff, whether they are on the floor or behind a counter, have the requisite knowledge of the products on sale.

The way we are tackling this challenge is pretty simple. Our technical team works closely with store staff to shore up their knowledge and help them showcase the USPs of the products they are selling such as dust-free sanding.

Doing this has enabled them to be seen as an expert by the customer and has opened up new sales avenues for the business, which is what we want.

Q: What has been the highlight of your career to date?

A: Definitely seeing merchants take dust and preparation more seriously. A while ago, prep was seen as a means to an end without much care and attention. However, it has now become the real separator between professionals and those new to the trade.

We are also now in a position where everyone is beginning to take more pride in what they do from start to finish, and with social media at the hands of every tradesperson out there, it’s very easy for them to see what products are on the market that will be an asset to their business.

Q: Which individual has influenced you most in your career?

A: Oddly enough, the winner of this would go to my late chess coach Geoff Gammon. He influenced my way of thinking significantly when it comes to solving problems that either don’t exist or can just appear without any notice.

Sadly, he passed away several months ago however, his teachings have stayed with me and it’s more than just a memory.

Q Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Tricky to comment, with the changes we’re seeing as an industry and the growth plans everyone has for the future. I’d love to be in a position where I’m still aware of the industry at a local level as well as from a wider scoped point of view.

In addition, as long as I’m still enjoying my job, my employer and am making a difference, the little details don’t matter too much.

Click or tap the link for more information on Mirka’s range of products and support services for merchants.

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